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Daniel Brandt on the Wikipedia Issue  (View post)

Lor [PersonRank 1]

Thursday, November 10, 2005
17 years ago

I've been following this issue since it was first posted. I've always been extremely impressed with the level-headedness and maturity of active Wikipedians – after all, in many ways Wikipedia's 'talk' pages are much like any other forum.

Issues like this one simply increase my respect for Wikipedia, and my trust that the content is monitored and maintained as diligently and accurately as possible.

Daniel Brandt might be claiming to fight for privacy and personal rights, but in my opinion Wikipedians are showing much more consideration for the spirit of rights and respect than he is, whether on Wikipedia or in his (IMHO) inane and unsubstantiated babblings elsewhere.

David [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #,1283,69511,00.html?tw=rss.TOP

Adam [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #

Heh heh, beat me to it, David! Was just looking for the link to post that.

On a related note, I think a reasonable 'public figure' test should take into account "alike venues." In other words, if someone is extremely active on the Web, he or she should expect a lessened level of privacy on the Web. Contrast this with a case, for instance, in which a person is a net celebrity and then someone write an article in the New York Times about them.

There are also issues of reasonable expectations. If someone consciously and deliberately engages in controversial commentary online, they should not be surprised nor unhappy to find themselves embroiled in related controversies. For example, take Philip Kaplan, the guy who created F*** IMHO, it'd be totally fair game for people to dig up and post publicly-available information on his business history, successes, failures, etc.

A person who is a "web model" shouldn't have any rights against someone who posts unflattering (yet legally obtained) photos of them online.

I have no idea if Jakob Nielsen has other sites besides, but, again, given his commentary on usability, it'd be fair for folks to find and then comment upon even a personal site or blog of his.

* * *

On one hand, I understand and respect Daniel's concern about anonymity and accountability on Wikipedia. There's definitely the potential for real harm here – emotional or otherwise – and I can relate to Daniel's frustration. With that said, however, no system is perfect, nor must it be... and on the whole, I think Wikipedia has done the right thing in maintaining an entry on Daniel.

I hope all parties can come to an amicable agreement, with the result being a balanced, reasonably complete entry on Daniel in Wikipedia.

Caleb E [PersonRank 10]

17 years ago #

What i love is that you, phillip, are listed as owner of a "pro-Google blog." as if that has anything to do with the price of eggs.

Fra [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #

There are some facts about Wikipedia that the sort of people who get agitated about their "image" tend to fail to understand:

1. Wikipedia doesn't carry your press releases. The fact that you assert something is true about you, doesn't mean that an encyclopedia is bound to *believe* you. What's more, Wikipedia is bound to cover many sides of issues; therefore, if you're famous enough to merit an article, you must expect that it will present the views of your critics and detractors as well as your own.

2. Wikipedia does not respond positively to people who come across as self-righteous or controlling. One of its rules is to reject the idea of "article ownership". Attempting to seize control of an article and drive others out of it is considered abusive, and is indeed grounds for being banned from contributing.

3. Wikipedia also does not respond positively to paranoia or grandiose claims of persecution. Acting as if the normal operation of the site (e.g. others' editing of your contributions) is a form of persecution against yourself is a good way to get ignored. Constructing fantasies of "cabals" or "conspiracies", or insisting that everyone around is biased against you, are likewise not effective means of getting heard.

4. Wikipedia reacts rapidly to stop censorship or "undocumented deletion" of content. Going to an article and stripping out content you don't want others to read is a surefire way to draw *more* attention to it ... as other contributors revert you, and start discussing the incident on talk pages, mailing lists, and other discussion fora.

5. Wikipedia respects cited, third-party, respectable sources. The best way to resolve a content dispute – a disagreement over whether a point is correct, or worth mentioning – is to cite sources about it. For instance, if someone thinks your company isn't notable enough to have an article and you think it is, don't cite your press releases or mission statement – but do cite *independent* press coverage of your company. (Don't bother citing articles based on your press releases – Wikipedia editors are wise to the hype.)

Hashim [PersonRank 10]

17 years ago #

am I the only one who feels for Brandt? It's difficult dealing with a media source that is powerful but claims no accountability for what is written.

With great power comes great responsibility, they say.

Wikipedia needs a reputation system like eBay. Quality authors get more trust and the articles they write or edit should be labeled so. Problem authors should be deranked by the community and their edits should be labeled as suspicious.

Daniel Brandt [PersonRank 3]

17 years ago #

It turns out that Florida has a violation-of-privacy statute.

This is from a 2001 state appellate court decision in Florida, Heekin v. CBS Broadcasting:


"More recently, the supreme court noted that there are four types of wrongful conduct that can be remedied through an action for invasion of privacy. See Agency for Health Care Admin. v. Associated Indus. of Fla., Inc., 678 So. 2d 1239, 1252 n.20 (Fla. 1996). These are:

"(1) appropriation – the unauthorized use of a person's name or likeness to obtain some benefit; (2) intrusion – physically or electronically intruding into one's private quarters; (3) public disclosure of private facts – the dissemination of truthful private information which a reasonable person would find objectionable; and (4) false light in the public eye – publication of facts which place a person in a false light even though the facts themselves may not be defamatory.

"In considering the four types of invasion of privacy, it becomes clear that invasion of privacy is a separate and distinct cause of action from libel or slander. Three of the four types of invasion of privacy do not reference any type of false information or defamation. Only false light invasion of privacy contemplates any issue of falsehood; and even then, the tort may exist when the facts published are completely true."


From the Wikipedia General Disclaimer:

The Wikipedia database is stored on a server in the State of Florida in the United States of America, and is maintained in reference to the protections afforded under local and federal law.

GamingFox [PersonRank 2]

17 years ago #

In my opinion, most people took negative reaction against Daniel Brandt because of his reaction to privacy issues. He got good reasons, but lousy at reactions.

For example, from older post...

..., Daniel Brandt filed "John Doe" lawsuit and obtained several court orders against Wikipedia and ISPs to reveal who is Juicifer, then sue her butt off. Meaning, he would destory other people's privacy just to protect HIS privacy.

He campaigned for privacy and yet he repeatedly used the laws to take away other people's privacy for his own gain. The whole story have "hypocritic" all over it.

Plus, how removing other people's privacy will protect our privacy? And don't forget, anonymous is a form of privacy too.

I agreed this is a very big issue which need to be discussed among cool-headed mature adults, and I wholeheartedly agreed with the fact that there is no perfect system. We just have to work with what we have.


By the way, I am currently in favor for removing anonymous from Wikipedia since they don't really need anonymous just to post cold, hard facts (with properly cited sources). They are not really posting opinions (at least they shouldn't be posting opinions), so it seem okay to remove anonymous.

Wouter Schut [PersonRank 10]

17 years ago #

Wikipedia should just display edits from anonymous ip-adresses in a different color. A stable and reviewed release would also help ( :D

Daniel Brandt [PersonRank 3]

17 years ago #

Juicifer was adding hostile information to the article on me that bordered on libel because it was very poorly worded. It was almost malicious, but probably closer to incompetent. It certainly violated my privacy. He/she was warned what could theoretically happen. If someone is attacking me, what right do they have to remain anonymous? What am I supposed to do, apologize for taking up their time?

And about the anonymous edits: The fact is that you can create an account with any new, unused username and a password, and you do not even need an email address. It takes about ten seconds. Username edits are actually MORE anonymous than those who edit without one, because if a username is available, then the IP address is not shown. You cannot even geolocate a username because you don't have an IP address. And most of them also use Gmail, which means that you cannot even get the originating IP address from the headers if they send you an email. Yahoo mail, Hotmail, and Earthlink all show the originating IP in the headers, but not Gmail.

Except for a handful of editors who use their real names as their username, or tell who they are on their user page, nearly everything would be in a different color. Almost the entire thing at Wikipedia is anonymous.

Yes, a stable and reviewed release would be a big help.
And the editor who approved it should not be anonymous.

Joe Bloggs [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #

Hi Daniel,
I'm a bit surprised that as a privacy campaigners you violate the privacy of others by putting their names on your website, with many other details about their location.

You claim this is 'because if I ever decide that I have cause to sue, I'm not sure who should be sued', but surely you could store them in a way that did not give the general public access to them?

GamingFox [PersonRank 2]

17 years ago #

There might be other (maybe better) way, other than threatening or suing everyone to death? Threatening (or warning) people is not good way to get things done. Believe me, most people don't react well to threats. You should have asked them in very nice and friendly tone instead of "change it or I will sue you" statement. If you did ask them in very nice and friendly tone, then you should have kept going. Keep asking other people (administrators, editors, your friends, etc.) for help. But, the train has left, the damage is done.

You clearly believe in "an eye for an eye" thing, and it is understandable. But, in this case, it is not "an eye for an eye". It is "an arm and a leg and a kidney for an eye...".

You are suing and taking money (or will sue and take money) from about a dozen people for posting or supporting an EDITABLE and POSSIBLY LIBEL information which is true and properly cited. Not only that, you exposed their PERSONAL information (location, home address, email address, real full name, etc.), but we don't know your home address and it is nowhere to be found in Wikipedia.

You caused far greater damage than they did, and at the same time, helping other people's case against privacy by making an example of "evil anonymous users". Ironically... A victim became the monster.


I agreed with you that Wikipedia need to change their structure a little bit, but I don't agree with your method of getting them to change. Threatening, suing, and exposing them is not the way to go. All that will do is cause destruction on all sides, and people like me (everyday internet users) will get caught in the crossfire.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

17 years ago #

I could see pros and cons of enforcing real name sign-ons on Wikipedia:

+ People would be more responsible for what they post
+ Less trolls, defamation, and spreading rumors (if that's a problem on Wikipedia)
+ Less spam or self-advertisement
- The number of overall edits would decrease (as you'd always have to sign in), so might overall quality
- People who edit hot topics, e.g. something about a religion, would suddenly be threatened
- Those people who value their privacy would suddenly expose a lot about them through their edits
- Even those people who don't value their privacy *now* might regret this one day (imagine a teenager prankfully editing articles about political issues, and 10 years later, his boss is following his Wikipedia track)

Daniel Brandt [PersonRank 3]

17 years ago #

>Not only that, you exposed their PERSONAL information (location, home address, email address, real full name, etc.), but we don’t know your home address and it is nowhere to be found in Wikipedia.

Not true. I show the city of location if I have it, but nothing more specific. My address is on all of my websites; it's not my fault that it's not on Wikipedia. It's really interesting to me that anonymous editors get worked up over this, yet a couple of them have been digging through Lexis/Nexis and pulling out 37-year-old material on me that could very well keep me from getting a job. Seems like a double standard to me.

And yes, Philipp, I believe that a great many editors at Wikipedia are teenagers, particularly the ones complaining about how immature I am. If I have their approximate age then I'm going to indicate it. This is relevant to me. There is no case law anywhere in the U.S. that says that noting someone's birthdate or age is a violation of privacy.

Dan Tobias [PersonRank 6]

17 years ago #

If the info on you is in Lexis-Nexis, a public source, and is truthful, then you have absolutely no legal claim against anybody disclosing it, even if you don't like people knowing it. If you try to sue about it (as you keep threatening), you'll be subject to countersuit under various laws (varying by state) against frivolous lawsuits, and could end up having to pay sizeable damages yourself, and have your lawyer subject to sanctions.

Gamaliel [PersonRank 1]

17 years ago #

This is totally ridiculous. There are legitimate issues to be raised about Wikipedia, but this isn't one of them. No one is digging up old information about Brandt to attack him. All I did to end up on Brandt's hit list was add to the article information from a 1968 New York Times article that he himself mentioned on the talk page of the Wikipedia article: ( It would be one thing if we were digging up an old divorce or a bankrupcy or something totally irrelevant like that, but we're adding information that is directly related to Brandt's notable history of activism and is information that Brandt himself brought to our attention.

I can't help but conclude that Brandt is determined to be unreasonable about this. He could easily work with us to achieve a mutually satisfactory solution, but instead he throws around empty legal threats and puts up an internet hit list.

Daniel Brandt [PersonRank 3]

17 years ago #

Thirty-five-old legal cases that have no relevance to the subject's current activity, and which a reasonable person would find objectionable in considering the character of that person, could be a violation of Florida's violation-of-privacy statute if the person is determined to be a "private person" – even though said legal case has been published, and is a matter of public record. If the reference to the person is true, this is usually an absolute defense against libel, but it is NOT relevant under Florida's violation-of-privacy statute.

Wikipedia is located in Florida.

Fortunately, unlike you, most judges in Florida can be expected to take Florida supreme court and appeals court decisions seriously.

Daniel Brandt [PersonRank 3]

17 years ago #

My previous message was for Tobias; this one is for Gamaliel.

I was working with SlimVirgin on this article in good faith for a few days. I told her things about myself that one might tell to a writer of an encyclopedia article. Then the good faith became bad faith because I discovered she was biased against me, and I discovered that she wouldn't lose one of the two citations I found objectionable.

At that point we agreed to delete the article. Jimmy Wales didn't care that much.

Then Philipp got it resurrected in a different form, a form that didn't include a lot of the earlier information because he didn't know about it. However, this earlier information soon seeped into the article.

The good faith turned to really bad faith. My primary ambition was to get it deleted again. Failing that, I tried to improve the language concerning events that happened 30 or more years ago. It's hard to do this without adding extra information to make my case. All along I made it clear that I want it deleted.

Then I discovered that discussion ("talk") pages and user pages end up on Google. This is outrageously incompetent on Wikipedia's part, and raises an entirely new dimension of liability.

I've been banned, so I'm no longer expected to "easily work with us to achieve a mutually satisfactory solution."

Just yesterday, I discovered that there is a Florida violation-of-privacy statute. Earlier I was thinking of libel as a legal option, when the article contained a lot of factual errors. Now I know that even without factual errors, I still have a case.

There are teenagers at Wikipedia who are now suggesting that the dispute I've created, and the public site that I created to make an issue out of my right to have the article taken down, makes me notable all by itself. This is laughable. It's circular, it's self-referential, and the only thing it will accomplish is to make Wikipedia's case look silly in court. I can hardly be considered a public person by virtue of activities and websites that advocate more privacy. There is no photograph of me on the web. I don't give speeches. I don't do radio interviews. I don't do TV. Yes, reporters sometimes call me asking about Google and privacy. Does this make me a "public person"? That's going to be a tough argument for Wikipedia to make in court.

Take down the article on me, the discussion page on me, my user page, and my user_talk page. Change your structure to preclude the sort of irresponsible anonymity that I've been subjected to, and then ask me if I'd like to work with you to "achieve a mutually satisfactory solution."

The biggest mistake I've made is not knowing about that violation-of-privacy statute in Florida from the beginning. However, I don't think anyone at Wikipedia was aware of it either, including Jimmy Wales. If I had known about that law, I might not have wasted all this sound and fury. I would have just lurked while SlimVirgin and her friends did what they wanted, and come down with a cease and desist once a certain threshold had been exceeded. At that point it probably would have been zapped quietly by Wales, and there would be no site, and we'd all be happier today.

I've made mistakes, but I didn't create the issue. And I was clear from the very beginning, when I sent the first email to SlimVirgin after noticing that a stub had been created on me, that deletion was one option, and taking down those two links was another option. Those two links are still there, by the way.

Bratsche [PersonRank 2]

17 years ago #

Wait. Creating a popular website does not make you notable? Since when? And why wouldn't you want to be notable? It is an encyclopedia article; expect both praise and criticism, adhering to the Wikipedia neutral point of view. And to successfully win a case for seditious libel, you have to prove that it is damaging to you, and caused you financial harm. How does information, properly sourced and culled from public sources, harm you? It is already available if you look. Just try a google search.

Gamaliel [PersonRank 1]

17 years ago #

So you're saying delete the article against our existing policies, entirely change the structure of how Wikipedia works, do everything else that you want, and then, and only then, will you start acting reasonably? Do you have any idea [how ridiculous that sounds]? [Edited.]

SlimVirgin isn't out to get you. I'm not out to get you. Some pretty harsh words have been thrown around about this, but I seriously doubt anyone else on Wikipedia is out to get you. But that doesn't mean you get to dictate which parts of the public record we reference, and it doesn't mean you get to dictate which pages we can and can't link to in that article. From your concluding comment it seems like you all this mess would have gone away if we had just deleted two links you personally didn't care for, Google-Watch-Watch and a Salon article, both of which aren't anything remotely resembling a private record about you. So this isn't about "privacy" at all, just your desire to eliminate criticism of yourself.

Dan Tobias [PersonRank 6]

17 years ago #

OK, your "reasonable" demands consist of insisting that Wikipedia change its entire basic structure and core principles in order to suit your delusional world view. Gimme a [expletive self-censored] break. You really expect them to do that? You have *no right* to demand that articles or links get deleted from the site, any more than anybody else has the right to demand that you delete anything from *your* site that they might find offensive.

I'm not a lawyer, and don't play one on TV, but I don't think any judge in any state would regard the quoting of a New York Times article as "invasion of privacy", especially when it's an article that you yourself called to the attention of the editors in question. If any judge was crazy enough to try such a thing, it would undoubtedly be overruled on appeal due to First Amendment concerns.

I don't think you're thinking out your own positions very well, especially when you favorably cite the Forbes hatchet-job on blogging and say that more regulation is needed; if this were to come to pass, then it would have a chilling effect on many online commentators... especially those who write online criticism of particular companies (Google-watch and Wikipedia-watch, for instance), or information on quasi-notable individuals (Namebase). Be careful what you ask for, because you might just get it.

As for whether what was mentioned about your 1960s activity is "defamatory" or otherwise harmful, well, putting aside the fact that it was *you* who originally complained that the article on you concentrated too much on your recent anti-Google activity instead of your 30+ year history of activism, what was written about you is just the facts, that you were convicted of failing to appear for a draft physical, then it was overturned by an appeals court because the government had failed to follow the law. Any spin anybody might place on these facts is entirely their own business; maybe some far-right-wingers would regard this as making you a treasonous criminal, but many others would see this as heroic on your part (especially given that there's currently another questionable war, and lots of resistance, going on, albeit without a draft this time). But it's certainly not intrinsically negative.

Kristin [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #

Daniel, I'm not entirely sure I agree with your grounds for wanting the article deleted but there does seem to be a grudge match against you by "some" of the "anonymous" (particularly the "username edits") sources editing your Wikipedia page. Wikipedia's content and speed of update is impressive but their anonymous editors do seem to lack accountability. Many of the Talk comments you cite on your blog come across as petty, unprofessional digs. These individuals should recuse themselves from participating in your page or better yet be removed by Wikipedia.

If this were just someone's personal webpage it might be another story but Wikipedia's reputation is increasing as a "reputable" source and they frequently rank in the top 10 or 20 for Google searches. For many subject searches, Wikipedia HAS become the definitive source not to mention there is strong possiblity of "print" versions circulating in the not too distant future. This is definite cause for worry for those who dispute the accuracy or bias of their Wikipedia page. At this point, Wikipedia needs a better system of checks and balances in place to manage disputes and to establish higher standards of professionalism.

Kyle [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #

Talk pages shouldn't reflect on wikipedia because they are not considerd an offical part of the wikipedia encyclopedia. Instead, they are simply sites where users can put information about themselves and their opinions. Talk pages are also safe places to express ideas which can then be either accepted or rejected by others. I don't know about others, but I find your demands that wikipedia change its entire stucture to be unreasonable; they're not going to change how they work just because you say they have to. If you don't like something on a talk page, you could edit it and add a comment opposing it. Oh wait, that's right you cant. You've been banned. Well, if you hadn't kept making threats and blanking your article, that would never have happened.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

17 years ago #

Why doesn't Wikipedia exclude Talk pages from search engines? They could easily. (Why don't they exclude Sandbox pages, on that matter?)

Daniel Brandt [PersonRank 3]

17 years ago #

The short answer is that Wikipedia is incompetent.

All articles, "talk" for articles, user pages, and "talk" for user pages have the same meta, name="robots" content="index,follow" in the header. Bots cannot be blamed for indexing these pages – Wikipedia invites them in.

Also, this past week there was a scandal of sorts in Norway. A prankster added the words, "He sat in prison from 1983-1984 for paedophilia on a little boy," to the article for the Norwegian prime minister. It is not true. Two major newspapers in Norway picked up the story. Needless to say, it was probably some teenager who thought it was funny.

It took Wikipedia editors 22.5 hours to detect and correct the vandalism. In the meantime, MSN's crawlers picked up the vandalized version, which as of today is still visible as MSN's cache copy.

Not only should any page at Wikipedia other than an article page be disallowed from crawlers, but the article pages should have the meta, name="robots" content="noarchive" in the header, so that no cache links are available on the major engines.

Kyle [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #

I can see your point in wanting wikipedia to disallow cached copies, but they do have reasons other than incompetance for allowing them. First of all, they want wikipedia to be as accessible as possible to everyone. By having cached copies on search engines, even if the main site is down (as has happened a couple times due to power failure in their datacenter and other similar situations), people can still search and find information through the search engine caches. Secondly, during periods of high demand, some users are pointed to google and yahoo as an alternative for the built-in wiki search. In order for that to be effective, a search engine must have a complete copy of every article available.

john [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #

How in the world could anyone with a blog ever consider themselves a private person? I've never heard of you before reading an article in the news about your objections to a wikipedia topic but if I can come here and read comments you post to the web, it seems I should also have the right to go to wikipedia and post any information about you I can find.

Opal-Kadett [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #

I finde Wikipedia is dreadfull to donate pictures to since many times I send my own (so non copyrighted) stuff and I get endless error essages telling me the name should be over 4 chariters long when it's 8 to 9 charictes long! It is plagued with tchnical dificultys on this level and as for licences. O.K., I missed it off by ignorance at first, but tryed to sort it out, but felt 'leaned on' as us Brits say to use a licence that negated my coppyright. I chose to let my photos be deleated rather than give up my cppyright. As for my diagrams- I did not mind giving up my cppy write on them and as I said at the begining, they screwed up. Don't send them pictures or diagrams to Wikipedia- it's a waste of time.

Sinan Taifour [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

I have made a website that finds stable pages of wikipedia and views them, it is called stablepedia ( /
After i finished it and bought the domain, i searched online and found "stablepedia" has been mentioned here, and the idea is similar to what i have done, so i thought maybe you people would be interested.
I understand this is an old topic which might be dead by now.

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